The AMIQ Institute -- "The Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands, Alaska"

Lady Jane, January 20 2013

A 1915 photo on the Pribilof Islands (click for source).A 1915 photo on the Pribilof Islands (click for source)

A distinct Aleutian culture first began to develop around 6,000 B.C. in the Bering Strait area of Alaska. Helen D. Corbett and Susanne Swibold of the AMIQ Institute cover this history in detail from the early origins of the Aleutians through the seal-hunting controversy that developed in the 1970s and 80s.

Here are some of the highlights of this article:

  • Over many centuries, the Aleuts developed a sophisticated knowledge of seal hunting to subsist in their environment.
  • In 1786, the Russian navigator Gabriil Pribilof discovered the breeding grounds of the Alaskan fur seals -- the soon-to-be-called Pribilof Islands. Aleutian natives were moved to these islands by Russian fur trading companies, sometimes against their will.
  • By 1867 the Aleuts had obtained Russian citizenship and were compensated fairly for their efforts in seal hunting. After about 1820 the Russians had implemented conservation efforts to maintain a sustainable seal population from year to year.
  • The United States purchased Alaska in 1867, establishing (and raising revenue from) fur trading monopolies in Alaska. After a couple decades these companies became gradually more corrupt and exploitative of the Aleuts and of the seal population, which began to decline.
  • The low point for the Aleuts was the period between 1910 and World War II, when they lived as wards of the federal government. They were interned from 1942-1945 much like the Japanese on the West Coast.
  • In the 1970s, the environmentalist movement attacked the practice of seal hunting. This became a high-profile issue and in 1985 the practice of commercial seal harvesting ended. Many Aleuts have become fishermen since that time, which is a dangerous but well-paid occupation.

For more details view the source piece - "The Aleuts of the Pribilof Islands, Alaska"

Related Topics

Alaska Purchase

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